The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the Chief Executive of Ceuta, Juan Jesús Vivas, have conspired to try to return the nearly 1,000 unaccompanied Moroccan minors who entered Ceuta in mid-May and remain in the city sheltered by the local administration or living on the street. The challenge is cyclopean in light of the background. In Ceuta there has only been one attempt to complete a repatriation of minors since the approval of the Immigration Regulations to which the central government and the autonomous city have now agreed to abide by once their attempt to express returns has been aborted by court order. It was six years ago, with an Algerian girl who her parents complained about and who ended up staying in Spain due to the refusal of her minor to return and the rejection of her return by both the Prosecutor’s Office and the Child Protection Service, ensuring that your best interests.
Patricia Fernández, lawyer: “To say that they will return the minors of Ceuta implies that they will once again violate their rights”
According to the annual reports of the State Attorney General’s Office, the repatriation of minors is “a legal figure of very little application”, “anecdotal”. In 2019, the last exercise with data, only two were carried out: that of an Algerian minor from Almería and that of another Colombian from Toledo. In 2018, three. The year before, five. The central executive and that of Vivas now aspire to use this procedure with hundreds of children “as quickly as possible” and starting the house from the roof. To begin with, according to the sources consulted by elDiario.es, Ceuta does not even know exactly how many Moroccan minors alone are still in the city of the nearly 1,100 that the National Police came to file in May.
Until now, only “about 400” age determination tests have been carried out and Save The Children has only had time to conduct individual psychosocial interviews with 350 kids to incorporate into the file that the Technical Team of the Minors’ Area has to prepare for each one. of the 900 estimated to be still in the city. Of the 350 interviewed by the NGO, a quarter showed extreme vulnerabilities due to having been mistreated or exploited.
Before formally initiating any repatriation proceedings, as it has been assumed that the Government delegate, Salvadora Mateos will do as soon as possible, she must ask the Moroccan embassy through the General Commissariat for Immigration and Borders a report “of the family circumstances “of each child. If Rabat sees only possible that it ends up in a protection center, L’Entraide Nationale – a public institution of social assistance – or the corresponding authority would have to provide a written commitment “to assume responsibility for the minor” in case of return .
“That is the first step, which like all the others was not taken in the procedure initiated on August 13,” warn the legal sources consulted by elDiario.es, who recall that the figure of repatriation to the Alawite Kingdom due to the persistent refusal of Moroccan institutions to establish any type of contact with their counterparts in a city that it considers “occupied”.
“It did not make any sense to do papers to be done, so family reunifications were managed, in case the migrant minor wanted to return and his family wanted to return, receiving the parents in the city’s Protection Service for, once accredited their relationship and certified the suitability of the return, promote their return together across the border, “indicates personnel directly related to this type of procedure. After the May entries, the Minors’ Area tried up to three times to do the same by accompanying children to the border, but the Moroccan authorities always refused to allow the Spanish technicians to see the first meeting with their parents to be able to hand them over.
Only when the Government Delegation has the Moroccan reports and the entity that has the custody of the minors can it formally initiate, in accordance with Spanish legislation, a procedure for the repatriation of each fully identified minor – the number of those who already do so. They are also unknown – if he considers that his best interest “is satisfied by reuniting with his family or making him available to the protection services of his country of origin.”
Then, the agreement must be notified “immediately” and “in writing” to the affected person “in a language that is understandable”, to the Prosecutor’s Office and to the Minors’ Area so that they can formulate allegations for ten days. Those over 16 years of age can intervene in this phase directly or through another person they designate. “Those who do not reach that age are represented by the Protection Service, although from 12 years of age it is generally considered that they have sufficient judgment and if they oppose repatriation they must have a judicial defender”, a role that is usually assigned to lawyers on duty shift.
Specialization to exercise judicial defense
Have personnel with adequate training and knowledge of dariya —The dialect of Arabic spoken by most of the minors — has been one of the difficulties encountered by NGOs involved in individual childcare. The shortage will multiply if this work is to be accelerated, but it will not be the only one. In anticipation, Save The Children and the La Merced Migrations Foundation have proposed to the Ceuta Bar Association to give a specialization course to their lawyers both to guarantee legal assistance to children and for the eventual appointment of legal defenders.
According to the regulations, when the arguments alleged by the child, his legal representative or judicial defender or the Minors’ Area have “decisive relevance” for the adoption of the return agreement, a period of between 10 and 30 days must be opened for the practice of tests. The procedure concludes with the hearing procedure, in which once the initial opinions and the written conclusions of the Child Protection Service and the Prosecutor’s Office have been provided, the minor must have the opportunity to pronounce before the delegate decides, “in accordance with the principle of the best interests of the minor”, on the repatriation of each minor or on their permanence in Spain, a decision that can be challenged by contentious-administrative means with free legal assistance.
The Immigration Regulations stipulate that each file must be completed within a maximum period of six months, which seems “impossible” to comply with, in the eyes of some of the parties who will have to be involved by legal imperative and direct external observers. “It would be feasible to process a case in half a year, but with the human and material resources available, the number of minors with whom it is intended to work and the starting situation in which we find ourselves, managing them all will presumably take years,” they warn.
Vivas assured this Wednesday “not to be in a position” to “specify” where the reinforcements that Sánchez promised will go to forget the alternative of distributing minors among the other autonomies, as has been claimed by the Spanish Children’s Platform to ensure a dignified reception while the procedure is being managed. It is something unfeasible in Ceuta without the collaboration of institutions such as the Army or the Church, which have refused to give up properties that allow minors to be taken out of the sports center and the containers with bunk beds in which they are now piled up.